At this site in 1886, Olivia A. Davidson married African American educator and leader Booker T. Washington. Olivia Davidson was a well-educated woman, graduating from Hampton and completing the teacher education program at Framingham State Normal School, now a university operated by the state of Massachusetts. Olivia passed away in 1889 after succumbing to tuberculosis. Although she never achieved the fame of her husband, Olivia was a co-founder of the school that grew into Tuskegee University along with her husband. Olivia Washington exercised tremendous influence in her role as assistant principal. She also helped to cultivate her husband's capacity to raise funds and operate the school in its early years. Three years after Olivia's death, Washington married educator Margaret James Murray who also worked to build Tuskegee as a teacher and administrator.
Olivia Davidson was born in Virginia in 1854. She was the
daughter of an ex-slave and freeborn mother. Olivia was the seventh of ten
children. In 1857 the family moved to southern Ohio from Virginia. They then
moved to the northern part of Ohio in Albany and Athens after their father
died. The move allowed Davidson to attend the Enterprise Academy. The
Enterprise Academy was owned, operated and controlled by African American
educators. The area around Albany was a focal point for anti-slavery sentiment.
There were three routes of the Underground Railroad in the area. It also
provided Davidson with an opportunity to network with Oberlin College
graduates, faculty, and African American activists.
At the age of
sixteen, Davidson began teaching in Ohio. She moved to Mississippi at the age
of eighteen to teach freed people and their children. Davidson enrolled at
Hampton Normal A&I located in Virginia in 1878 after spending two years in
Mississippi and teaching four years in the Memphis Public School system. She
delivered the commencement speech to her class in May 1879. It was here she met
Booker T. Washington, who was the postgraduate speaker at the ceremony.
Washington in August 1886 becoming his second wife and stepmother to his
daughter Portia. The couple had two sons, Booker Washington Jr. and Ernest
Washington. Davidson worked as a teacher, curriculum specialist, principal,
fund-raiser and builder and Tuskegee. She died on May 9, 1889.
Washington’s second wife in August of 1886; she was the stepmother to his
daughter Portia, and had two sons with Washington, Booker, Jr. and Ernest. At
Tuskegee, in addition to serving as a confidant, wife, and mother, she was a
teacher, curriculum specialist, principal, fund-raiser, and builder. She
died May 9, 1889.